Kentucky's home game against Vanderbilt on Saturday will be the last for 15 Wildcats seniors. It also could end up being the last game at Commonwealth Stadium for do-everything junior Randall Cobb.
Cobb said after Tuesday's practice he will weigh his NFL Draft options after the season and decide whether to return to UK in 2011.
Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips said he'd allow Cobb to be honored at Senior Day festivities if he wishes, but so far Cobb hasn't given any indication he wishes to do so.
The more likely scenario is for Cobb to take a pass on Senior Day and submit his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board for an evaluation before ultimately deciding whether to turn pro.
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"I plan to put my name out there and see what's being said," Cobb said. "I'll check it out. It's a process."
Phillips said he expects Cobb to wait and see how his evaluation turns out.
"I think he'd have to," Phillips said. "He's not a guy that's a slam dunk. He'll have to find out more about his position."
Cobb admits he's torn between looking toward his future and returning in 2011 to try to bolster the fortunes of the UK program.
"It's hard," he said. "It's going to be one of the hardest decisions that I've ever had to make. There's a lot that I still want to accomplish. There's still a lot that I've set my mind for to try and do for this program. We haven't made all the expectations I planned on, but we have done a lot the past three years I've been here. There's a lot that's going to weigh into the decision."
Several factors figure to play in Cobb's decision. For starters, there are several other talented underclassmen receivers who could enter the 2010 Draft, including Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones.
"Guys like that, their measurables are going to be a little better than Randall's," Phillips said. "And you've got other juniors at other positions who will be coming out, too. But projections are just projections. He and his family have to make the final decision when all is said and done."
Cobb served as more of a multi-purpose player his first two years at UK but has blossomed as a receiver this fall. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is second in the league in receptions per game (6.3) and fourth in receiving yards per game (78.3). Cobb is also third in the nation in all-purpose yards (176.8 per game). UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, who recruited Cobb out of Alcoa (Tenn.), said Cobb has vastly improved his route-running, recognition of coverages and ability to find open spots in the defense.
"He's always been a great athlete and great football player, and now he's becoming a great wide receiver," Sanders said. "He's the type of person who will make a very informed decision when the time comes. If he asked me, I'd tell him to definitely investigate it, but don't make any decisions until you know what you want to do and what's really best for you. I don't think there's any question he's got a future playing the game at the next level, but I also know that he enjoys playing college football and enjoying his time here at Kentucky. It's not like he's in a hurry to get away."
Kentucky receivers coach Tee Martin thinks Cobb could benefit tremendously from an extra year. For starters, he could be a pre-season All-American and turn up on the short list for the Heisman Trophy.
"I don't know why he's not getting Heisman talk this year," Martin said. "The leading all-purpose player in the best conference in college football; I don't know why he's not getting Heisman talk."
Cobb, who has 35 career touchdowns, could also challenge the SEC career record of 57 set by Florida's Tim Tebow.
"That would put him among the all-time greats," Phillips said.
Martin compared Cobb's situation to his former teammate at the University of Tennessee, receiver Peerless Price. Price considered entering the draft in 1997 after catching 48 passes for 698 yards and six touchdowns. But Martin, who would be taking over the quarterback position from Peyton Manning the following year, said he did everything in his power to persuade Price to stay. Price eventually returned, and he and Martin helped lead UT to the 1998 national championship and Price was a second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills that next spring.
Martin said Cobb's return would be an immense lift to young quarterbacks Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski, who figure to be competing for the chance to replace Mike Hartline in the off-season.
"I knew that (Price) was thinking about coming out early, so every day after the season I was hanging out with him trying to make sure he stayed," Martin said. "I'd say, 'Let's go out and throw and get to know each other. I basically told him, 'You're my guy.' There was no secret about it.
"This offense is Randall Cobb's. He's the face of this offense, he knows what to do, and he can help out our young QBs."